Haaretz editor sees Israeli apartheid here to stay

Leading boycott, divestment and sanctions advocate (BDS) Omar Barghouti introduces this important piece:

Nothing new. BUT it comes from the publisher of one of Israel’s most influential newspaper. Other prominent Israelis from within the establishment (and the Israeli media is most certainly part of the establishment, by any objective standard) have used the term apartheid before in describing this or that dimension of Israeli colonial oppression and system of racial discrimination. Still, for the publisher of Haaretz to use the term, and now, is news–good news!

Worth mentioning that a previous publisher of Haaretz called for boycotting the Knesset after it passed the “Loyalty Oath.”

As all “liberal” Zionists, however, the author attempts to absolve Israel of its “original sin,” the planned and systematic uprooting and ethnic cleansing of most of the indigenous Palestinians in 1948, focusing instead only on the corrupting effect of “the occupation” and the colonial settlement enterprise in the 1967 territory. So the Nakba becomes the “War of Independence,” with a capital I. And Israel is portrayed as an innocent democracy up until 1967!

Typically, the author obfuscates the true definition of apartheid, making it an exclusively South African system of discrimination. But he still is obliged to use the term to describe Israel’s system towards the Palestinians, at least in the 1967 OPT. Again typically, the author ignores the dozens of Israeli laws, including “constitutional’ (Basic) laws, that discriminate between Jewish and “non-Jewish” citizens of the state in almost all vital aspects of life.

The fact that Israel’s system of what even the US Department of State calls “institutional, legal, and societal discrimination” against the indigenous Palestinian citizens of the state fits the UN definition of apartheid as per the 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid is ignored by this otherwise knowledgeable author.

The fact that the recent Cape Town session of the Russel Tribunal on Palestine (which involved several world renowned authorities on apartheid) found Israel guilty of the crime of apartheid against the entire Palestinian people, (in 48, 67 and exile) is conveniently omitted by this opinion maker.

Still, it is welcome news that Mr. Schocken is finally acknowledging part of what we’ve known for decades. Better late than never; and better admit part of the guilt than none.

Here’s the piece by Amos Schocken:

Speaking in the Knesset in January 1993, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said, “Iran is in the initial stages of an effort to acquire nonconventional capability in general, and nuclear capability in particular. Our assessment is that Iran today has the appropriate manpower and sufficient resources to acquire nuclear arms within 10 years. Together with others in the international community, we are monitoring Iran’s nuclear activity. They are not concealing the fact that the possibility that Iran will possess nuclear weapons is worrisome, and this is one of the reasons that we must take advantage of the window of opportunity and advance toward peace.”

At that time, Israel had a strategy – which began to be implemented in the Oslo accords, put an end to the priority granted the settlement project and aimed to improve the treatment of Israel’s Arab citizens.

If things had gone differently, the Iran issue might look different today. However, as it turned out, the Oslo strategy collided with another, stronger ideology: the ideology of Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful ), which since the 1970s, apart from the Oslo period and the time of the withdrawal from Gaza, has established the concrete basis for the actions of Israel’s governments. Even governments that were ostensibly far removed from the Gush Emunim strategy implemented it in practice. Ehud Barak boasted that, in contrast to other prime ministers, he did not return territory to the Palestinians – and there’s no need to point out once again the increase in the number of settlers during his tenure. The government of Ehud Olmert, which declared its intention to move toward a policy of hitkansut (or “convergence,” another name for what Ariel Sharon termed “disengagement” ) in Judea and Samaria, held talks with senior Palestinians on an agreement but did not stop the settlement enterprise, which conflicts with the possibility of any agreement.

The strategy that follows from the ideology of Gush Emunim is clear and simple: It perceives of the Six-Day War as the continuation of the War of Independence, both in terms of seizure of territory, and in its impact on the Palestinian population. According to this strategy, the occupation boundaries of the Six-Day War are the borders that Israel must set for itself. And with regard to the Palestinians living in that territory – those who did not flee or were not expelled – they must be subjected to a harsh regime that will encourage their flight, eventuate in their expulsion, deprive them of their rights, and bring about a situation in which those who remain will not be even second-class citizens, and their fate will be of interest to no one. They will be like the Palestinian refugees of the War of Independence; that is their desired status. As for those who are not refugees, an attempt should be made to turn them into “absentees.” Unlike the Palestinians who remained in Israel after the War of Independence, the Palestinians in the territories should not receive Israeli citizenship, owing to their large number, but then this, too, should be of interest to no one.

The ideology of Gush Emunim springs from religious, not political motivations. It holds that Israel is for the Jews, and it is not only the Palestinians in the territories who are irrelevant: Israel’s Palestinian citizens are also exposed to discrimination with regard to their civil rights and the revocation of their citizenship.

This is a strategy of territorial seizure and apartheid. It ignores judicial aspects of territorial ownership and shuns human rights and the guarantees of equality enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. It is a strategy of unlimited patience; what is important is the unrelenting progress toward the goal. At the same time, it is a strategy that does not pass up any opportunity that comes its way, such as the composition of the present Knesset and the unclear positions of the prime minister.

The term “apartheid” refers to the undemocratic system of discriminating between the rights of the whites and the blacks, which once existed in South Africa. Even though there is a difference between the apartheid that was practiced there and what is happening in the territories, there are also some points of resemblance. There are two population groups in one region, one of which possesses all the rights and protections, while the other is deprived of rights and is ruled by the first group. This is a flagrantly undemocratic situation.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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